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Our Solar Home

Solar skylight
Solar skylight

Unlike our Solar Garage, which we designed and built from scratch, the house was on the property when we moved in.  So we have been making incremental improvements on the house since 2005.
 
The first major project was to re-roof the house, as the existing roof was very old, gutters leaking and there was no insulation.  Due to the thin roof cavity, the only way to get insulation in was during a re-roofing.
    
We used both the silver foil, all the way out over the veranda and additional pink bat insulation over the living space. This totally transformed the house, making it efficient to cool in summer and to heat in winter. Another important addition is 2 large skylights, one in the kitchen and one in the master bedroom.  
 
We noticed how dim it was in these areas, largely because of the surrounding veranda.  The large 900×400mm skylights proved too intense in mid-day sun, and too intrusive in the mornings.  So I built a set of custom louvers to control the light, and these work perfectly to control the light intensity.  The upside is that the large skylights deliver plenty of light even in very overcast conditions. We now only use electric lights in these areas at night. With the re-roofing complete and quality insulation in place, we invested in our first 2kW Solar electric system to complement the existing solar hot water system which I have been re-furbishing.

This completed stage one of our Solar Energy Home project. Then followed many small projects to improve our Hybrid Energy Equation. As we have a lot of trees on the property, creating a continuous supply of firewood, we installed a Vista Combustion Heater that quickly and efficiently heats the home in the winter. I then discovered a maker of stainless steel chimney water jackets, and installed one of these on the combustion heater chimney and connected it to the Solar Hot Water Storage Tank with a thermo-syphon copper pipe loop.  So in the winter months, when solar heating is reduced, this compensates nicely.

Solar Hot Water, Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Skylight
Solar Hot Water, Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Skylight

We installed a manual timer to control the heater  booster element of the Solar Hot Water System.  We very rarely need to use this, and when we do, we use a 30 minute boost.  This is really effective in reducing power consumption and improving solar efficiency, as the solar collector is more efficient the cooler it is.  Having the booster maintain a higher constant temperature actually makes the collector less efficient.

Solar Photovoltaic Back-to-Grid Inverter
Solar Photovoltaic Back-to-Grid Inverter

We bought a new refrigerator with much better insulation and energy rating.  
We bought a new LED TV with a 6 Star energy rating.
We installed a master switch for all our entertainment system components, and turn all components off when not in use, preventing the constant standby leak.
I still have a relatively in-efficient old Onkyo amplifier, but it does such a great job…
We have solar garden lights and a solar powered front gate.
That completes the hybrid energy equation for our home.
That now combines with our Solar Garage hybrid installation and amounts to complete energy independence with a good margin.

(A note on wind, as our property is in a valley, we do not have reliable winds, otherwise I would have added a wind turbine to the hybrid equation).